Why Scaling Down can help Founders Scale-Up their Startups

4 September 2023

Founders need to strike a balance with processes like delegation in order to succeed.

advice : Leadership and Strategy

If you type “scaling your business” into Google, you’ll find heaps of advice and information on how founders can successfully expand their companies’ operations, increase their reach, and raise capacity to handle a steady rise in customer numbers.

What attracts less attention is how individuals can scale themselves down as founders to benefit their businesses. The reason for this may seem obvious: at the beginning, huge amounts of time and effort are required to get things up and running, and to set the company up for long-term success.

But taking a step back is not always a bad thing. It can have significant advantages for the business, for employees, and for you as a founder. Besides, maintaining maximum intensity is unsustainable over the long term.

Some great ways to scale yourself down – a founders perspective

Most of those who embark on startups have experience of growing businesses to huge success. It’s this solid track record that often gives them the confidence to go it alone and start again from square one with an exciting new project.

So scaling back for some throws people out of their comfort zone. It requires certain skills that they may not have used before. It also requires a certain amount of discipline. Taking a ‘hands off’ approach in certain areas, and giving other people more control over particular duties and decisions, can be a difficult decision to take.

Yet the rewards of letting go to some extent can also be significant. Here are some ways that business owners can scale down to succeed.

Temper Your Expectations

Building a business strategy, perfecting the goods and service that your startup provides, and fine-tuning processes like sales, distribution and marketing can all take time to achieve.

What’s more, it’s highly unlikely that any new company will have the resources that a founder could previously draw upon at a larger firm. Acknowledging this, and then having the patience to scale back your expectations, is crucial from day one.

Creating a long-term view of what you want your company to achieve is essential. But at the same time, it’s important for founders to accept they won’t foresee all the problems (and the opportunities) that come along as the firm scales up.

This means that things often have to be done in a ‘back to front,’ counter-intuitive sort of way. Firms with multi-million-dollar budgets have the means to conduct a lot of consumer research, for example, so that they can hit the ground running. Startups almost always lack this sort of budget to do this, and so may have to tailor their goods and services as they go along.

Founders need to be prepared to adapt their ways of thinking and their business plans as conditions evolve. And they need to be flexible in their business planning to address any bumps and adapt their strategy as they go along.

Aim To Delegate

Running a startup can be a totally different kettle of fish on a day-to-day basis. From having a narrow operational remit in their previous role/s, business leaders usually find themselves with a much wider range of responsibilities when they go it alone.

Their tasks can include everything from formulating strategy, getting customer orders out, to fixing a faulty wheel on a delivery truck! They are ‘head cook and bottle washer,’ to use a well-worn trope. And this can have serious drawbacks for their company.

It means that a founder may not putting your skills to best use. It also means time can be unequally divided between critical things that can shape the success of the company, and more menial day to day operations.

This is why delegating tasks and certain decision making is an important tool in any founder’s locker. Some of the key things to remember are to:

  • Steer clear of micromanaging, and to focus on offering support and guidance.
  • Make sure that your team has the resources, tools, and training they need to succeed.
  • Maintain a flexible leadership style, and be prepared to provide more hands-on assistance.
  • Take time to recognise and celebrate the accomplishments by the team or by specific individuals, however large or small.
  • Lead by example, and show the behaviour you want to see from your team.

Delegating doesn’t just free up your time and resources to things that are more pressing and to which you are most suited. It also has other significant advantages for a business. It can boost team morale, improve individuals’ skillsets, build trust between employees and yourself, and reduce staff turnover.

However, delegation also involves the acceptance of certain risks. Ceding control can adversely affect the workplace dynamic and perceptions around the firm’s hierarchy. Mixed signals or unclear instructions can impact how well a task is carried out.

Finally, the person chosen may not be as motivated or adept at completing a job as the founders themselves would have been. This means that delegating tasks or decisions that are critical to the success of the company should be considered especially carefully.

The information available on this page is of a general nature and is not intended to provide specific advice to any individuals or entities. We work hard to ensure this information is accurate at the time of publishing, although there is no guarantee that such information is accurate at the time you read this. We recommend individuals and companies seek professional advice on their circumstances and matters.